3rd March 2022

Winter is almost behind us and now is the perfect time to get financially fit!

So, what kind of things should you be looking at when you’re reviewing your finances? Here are some tips for you to get yourself financially fit. So, grab a drink and take a seat and let’s start your journey to fitter finances…

 

  1. Budgeting

Let’s talk about setting a budget. Whether you get paid monthly, weekly or every four weeks, knowing exactly where you spend your money is the perfect first step to improving your financial situation.

We particularly like the free Budget Planner provided by MoneyHelper as it offers a place to record all your spending as well as a breakdown of your spending by category. It also gives you some useful, personalised tips.

CLICK HERE to access the MoneyHelper Budget Planner.

 

  1. Cut back or swap

Once you know where you are spending your money, you can then decide what is less important to you than you first thought. A really good way to determine what should stay and what should go is by asking yourself ‘what would my day-to-day life look like without this?’. If the answer is ‘no different’ or ‘I can’t remember the last time I used it’ then scrap it now.

If you don’t want to give something up, would you consider an alternative? One example is cable TV contracts. Would you get the same entertainment value from a monthly subscription service instead? If so, you could be looking at savings of £30 or more. If you already have TV subscriptions, how many do you have and do you need them all? Monthly subscription services also usually offer the freedom to cancel them and restart them as you want which gives you more control. Services such as Netflix, Prime Video and Now TV are all popular choices.

Perhaps you could consider changing where you shop? Groceries bought from a cheaper supermarket such as Lidl or Aldi do not necessarily mean you have to compromise on quality. In fact, Lidl claims it sells over 100,000 lobsters at Christmas! Not what you’d expect from a budget store.

Takeaways are can also be expensive, especially for a family, so why not think about cutting them back to once a month? Also, using a food delivery app can add extra costs so think about picking your food up or ordering directly from the restaurant.

 

  1. Save on your bills

It’s no secret that the cost of living is rising and one of the major contributing factors are our energy bills. The way we see it, there are two obvious things to look at here. Do you switch or do you cut down to save?

Switching suppliers may reduce the amount you pay each month depending on your tariff and how much energy you use. Many bill payers use price comparison sites to find better deals on their energy. We agree this is a good way to reduce your bills but would recommend you use Ofgem-accredited price comparison websites. You can find a list of them HERE along with some other switching tips provided by Ofgem.

Cutting down on the amount of gas, electricity, and water you use is easier said than done however, there are a few things you can do around your home for a relatively low cost:

  • Use low energy or LED bulbs in your lamps and ceiling lights
  • Don’t do half-loads of laundry. Wash a full load for the same amount of energy usage.
  • If any of your appliances or your boiler has an eco-setting, use it.
  • Don’t leave your TV on standby. Instead, turn it off at the plug.
  • Don’t heat an empty house. If you have central heating, consider using timers.
  • Turn off your tap while you brush your teeth – it saves around 6 litres of water.
  • Regularly check your pipes, washing machine, dishwasher and garden hose for leaks.

 

If you are worried about covering the cost of your energy bills, you can reach out to your local Citizens Advice or visit their website HERE for more information.
 

  1. Check your credit report

We cannot say this one enough! Your credit report is a record of your credit history. Every form of credit you have or have ever had is recorded on your credit file and it will stay there for six years after your agreement ends. This information is what your future lenders will look at when they are deciding whether to lend to you. So, it is in your best interests to make sure the information on this report is correct and shows lenders you are a responsible borrower.

You can get a free credit report from places like Credit Karma, Clear Score or Experian. If you download the mobile app from any of these providers, you can also benefit from hints and tips to help increase your score. Keeping a good credit score means you are not only more likely to be accepted for credit, but you may also get access to better deals and lower rates of interest on any future borrowing.

If you look at your credit report and find something there is wrong, you will need to raise a dispute with the relevant Credit Reference Agency. There are three main credit reference agencies in the UK:

 

  1. Balance transfers and debt consolidations

Not all debt is bad but, the way you manage your debts can have an impact on your finances. If you already have a credit card, you might consider a balance transfer to another provider at a lower rate. Quite often providers of balance transfer cards will offer rates of 0% interest which gives you a better chance to repay the debt however, there is usually a transfer fee to look out for. We like the article provided by Money Super Market which gives some tips for transferring your credit card balances. You can read the article HERE.

If you have multiple debts such as loans, overdrafts or credit cards, a debt consolidation loan could be a good option. A debt consolidation loan involves taking out one new loan and using the funds to pay off your other outstanding debts. This then leaves you with just one monthly repayment and quite often it means you will pay less interest over time.

First Defence Finance offers a Debt Consolidation loan which has been designed specifically for members to clean up their outgoings. You can apply by logging into the mobile app or website.

 

  1. Save a little, live a lot

Phew! You’ve made it to step 6 and now it’s time to think about savings. The term ‘financial resilience’ refers to our ability to withstand an unexpected expense or life event. For example, if your car or washing machine broke down tomorrow, do you have the money to fix or replace it? The Money Charity says: ”In 2020, according to the FCA, 27-34% of UK adults (14-18 million people) had either no savings or less than £1,000 in savings. This was skewed toward younger age groups with at least 47% of 18- 24 year-olds having less than £1,000 in savings.”

Saving doesn’t need to be difficult but, to be successful at saving, you do need to build a habit. If you work for one of our military payroll partners you can pay directly into any of our savings accounts straight from your wages.

The point is, whether you save £5 a month or £500 a month, building a habit of saving money every month increases your chances of coping with unexpected life events and decreases your need to borrow small amounts. You can also earn dividends or interest on savings which means you get a little extra just for setting some funds aside.

You can view our savings products HERE.

Written by
racheldowning

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